Djibouti

Joe and Sophie’s flat, Deptford

19 October 2016

Little Djibouti, a population of 900K tucked into a corner between Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, is a former French colony which derives its cuisine from the main Afar and Issa ethnic groups (from Ethiopia and Somalia respectively). This means some very interesting flavours come together, making for a promising menu.

Most of the evening was set to the sound of Afar music, traditional and pop, plus the Djibouti national anthem which proved to be a very versatile piece: in one full-on version it sounded like “the sound of an evil nation crushing the world”, but in another it was “really nice, like something from a Wild West movie.”

Steve’s starter was a small yetakelt w’et, a vegetable stew made from beans and root veg cooked in tomatoes and flavoured with berbere. This was really good: strong, hot flavours from the berbere, perfectly cooked vegetables.

Yetakelt w'et

Yetakelt w’et

Sophie’s main of Skoudehkaris was then also great, but in a different way: subtler flavours from the cardamom and cloves, and a delicious contrast of texture and taste between the dry, baked aubergine and the rice cooked into the stew.

Skoudehkaris

Skoudehkaris

Finally, Joe’s dessert was canjeero – essentially pancakes, but perfect pancakes, thick and spongy, forming a perfect base for the bananas and honey we shovelled on top of them.

Canjeero

Canjeero

Djibouti delivered three superb courses that were straightforward to make, interestingly different and thoroughly delicious. And they have a good flag too.

Scores

Food: 4/5

Recipes

Yetakelt W’et

100g Niter Kebbeh (or ghee or just butter)
100g Green beans, cut in thirds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tb Berbere (see below)
250ml Marigold bouillon
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
8 small tomatoes, chopped
2 new potatoes, cubed
long squeeze tomato paste
handful chopped fresh parsley

Based on the BigOven recipe: Saute the onions, garlic, berbere, and paprika in the niter kebbeh for 2 minutes. Add the beans, carrots, and potatoes and continue to saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender. Mix in the parsley (optional).

Serve with injera and yogurt or cottage cheese. (We didn’t.)

Berbere

You can get this in Waitrose, apparently, but I made my own, following Helen Graves’ recipe as far as possible. (I didn’t have any fenugreek, cinammon or the crunchy dried onions, but I did put in some nigella seeds.) Toast the whole seeds below, then put them along with everything else into a spice grinder.

2 tsp chili flakes
2 tablespoons paprika
4 cloves
6 black peppercorns
3 allspice berries
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Djibouti Rice (Skoudehkaris)

from: http://www.healthy-life.narod.ru/wor_ek57.htm

250 g lamb shoulder, diced
250 g rice
1 tbsp oil
250 g fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
1 large onion chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp chopped red chilliFry the chopped onions in the oil until softened. Add the meat and cook until browned then add the tomatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add all the spices, cover with water and allow to simmer gently for 45 minutes. When the meat is tender add the rice and 500 ml water, bring to the boil reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is done. Cook for a few more minutes to dry the mixture immediately and serve immediately.
Djibouti Canjeero or Lahooh (Flat bread)

From: http://www.internationalcuisine.com/djibouti-canjeero/

Starter mixture:
½ cup sorghum, millet or teff flour (or, in our case, just flour)
1 cup white corn meal
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 cup water (lukewarm)

Add the starter to the following:
4 cups self-rising flour
¼ cup sugar
4¼ cups water (lukewarm)

Step 1: Prepare the starter mixture

Combine the sorghum, millet or teff flour, white corn meal, yeast, and lukewarm water. Mix well then let the yeast activate and the mixture soak for one hour.

Step 2: Prepare the canjeero batter

Combine the starter mixture with the self-rising flour, sugar and water. If you mix by hand, add the water in stages to avoid lumps. You can also use a blender, food processor, or handheld electric mixer. After mixing the batter very well, let it ferment for at least two hours overnight is best. Fermentation is essential for an authentic canjeero taste.

Cooking the canjeero

You don’t need a special pan to cook canjeero. Any non-stick pan would do. In between batches wipe the pan with a paper towel dipped in a little oil.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Using a ladle, scoop the canjeero batter into the pan. The quantity scooped will depend on the size of the pan and the size of the canjeero you want to make. Using a swirling motion, spread the batter over the pan, as if drawing a spiral with the ladle.

Cook the canjeero until brown on the bottom and the spongy top side is cooked through. You do not flip it, it is only cooked on one side. Enjoy!

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Denmark

Snaps and Rye, Golborne Road

29 September 2016

In true ‘food of the worlds’ style this was our second attempt to eat at Snaps and Rye. The first time we’d set aside a Wednesday evening for our Danish meal, only to discover on the day that Snaps and Rye, which brands itself as the only Danish restaurant in London, only serves dinner from Thursday to Saturday. So we rearranged and made our way through the slightly autumnal air to the cosy Snaps and Rye on a Thursday evening a week later. It has a gorgeously furnished Scandi interior with open shelves full of artfully designed tableware, glimpses of copper light fittings, bare wood and white and red artwork on the walls. Having been to Copenhagen last year it felt as though we could have stepped off the London street straight into a Christianshavn eatery.

Dinner at Snaps and Rye is seasonal, with a four course set menu which changes weekly. The food was beautifully presented and felt authentically Danish. We started with a Northern Gold cocktail (Prosecco • Nordguld Akvavit • Angostura Bitters) and some small canapes served in a smørrebrød style. For those not in the know, that’s an open-sandwich usually served on rye bread, it’s pretty much the Danish national dish.

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Leek risotto • Parmesan puddle • Deep – fried egg

Our first course was a leek risotto with a deep-fried egg served on a ‘parmesan puddle’. I struggled to find the puddle although Joe and Steve assured me it was there, but it was incredibly delicious. The deep-fried egg was still runny in the middle which I found very impressive. This was followed by a fish course for Joe and Steve of Mackerel with Kohlrabi. I had the vegetarian alternative (call ahead if you want a vegetarian version of the set menu as it includes fish and meat) which was a beetroot and goats cheese salad. On first glance I thought this sounded pretty boring but it was by far and away the best beetroot and goats cheese salad I’ve eaten. Alongside the two main ingredients were small pickled mushrooms, walnuts and a seed crumb which gave it a lovely crunch. I actually think this was the better dish as the mackerel was ever so slightly overdone.

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Mackerel • Kohlrabi • Black radish

Steve and Joe had a choice of main course. Steve opted for the braised pig cheeks which were beautifully tender, served with confit celery and artichoke. Joe gambled and risked the cooked oysters with kale and potato – the risk was worth it. I had a warm mushroom, almond and pistachio pate on rye bread. This turned out to be more of a terrine made with briochey bread crumbs and chunks of mushroom and nuts, it was comforting and I’d go back again just for that. Dessert was lemon cream with ginger snap and sorrel sugar. The lemon cream was very good although not unusual but the sorrel sugar gave it an edge and made it feel more Danish than your average lemon dessert.

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Lemon cream • Brandy snap • Raspberries • Sorrel sugar

We enjoyed our meal so much we were tempted by an after dinner drink. Joe and Steve sampled the Danish beer –  an Ærø walnut beer and Ærø IPA. The walnut beer was particularly unusual and very pleasant. I had a coffee snaps which was an excellent pallet cleanser.

Overall, delicious, beautifully presented food with excellent, welcoming service and an authentic feel. We’d go back.

Menu for 29th + 30th September & 1st October

Leek Risotto, Parmesan Puddle, Deep-Fried Egg, Burnt Onion

Mackerel, Kohlrabi, Black Radish

Braised Pig Cheeks, Confit Celery, Pickled Tarragon, Crisp Artichoke

or

Oysters, Vermouth, Shallots + Gamle Ole Cheese, Kale, Potato, Seaweed Tuile

Lemon Cream, Ginger Snap Crumb, Raspberries, Sorrel Sugar

Vegetarian alternatives:

Beetroot + Goat’s Cheese • Walnuts • Pickled Mushrooms + Seed Crumb

Warm Mushroom Almond Pistachio Paté on Toasted Rye • Spinach • Kale on the side

Scores

Atmosphere: 4/5

Food: 4/5